Students Have “Complete and Ultimate Control” Over Achievement

by Robert Pondiscio
August 26th, 2011

Will Fitzhugh didn’t get the memo.

Everybody knows that teachers are the alpha and omega in education.  The only thing standing between every child, a college degree and a lifetime of prosperity is that child’s teacher.   This is “settled wisdom among Funderpundits and those to whom they give their grants,” observes Fitzhugh.  But students still exercise “complete and ultimate control over how much academic achievement there will be” in a school, he notes.

“This may seem unacceptably heterodox to those in government and the private sector who have committed billions of dollars to focusing on the selection, training, supervision, and control of K-12 teachers, while giving no thought to whether K-12 students are actually doing the academic work which they are assigned.”

Fitzhugh, the publisher of The Concord Review, the only known journal to publish research papers written by high school students, laments a view of education and ed policy that does not acknowledge students’ responsibility for their own performance, and instead assumes they are merely “passive recipients of their teachers’ influence.”

“Apart from scores on math and reading tests after all, student academic work is ignored by all those interested in paying to change the schools.  What students do in literature, Latin, chemistry, history, and Asian history classes is of no interest to them.  Liberal education is not only on the back burner for those focused on basic skills and job readiness as they define them, but that burner is also turned off at present.”

The view that teachers are the prime movers is not just wrong, but stupid, Fitzhugh concludes. “Alfred North Whitehead (or someone else) once wrote that, ‘For education, a man’s books and teachers are but a help, the real work is his.’”

35 Comments »

  1. My oldest is in Second Grade this year. We home school. She is reading at a 5th grade level and breezing through Math. She’s constantly learning more history and science. As far as I can tell, either I’m the most brilliant elementary school teacher ever to walk the earth OR most of the “education” is all her fault, and my job is just to set a general framework, make sure she practices the things she’s bad at, and to give her access to high quality books, music, art, etc.

    While I would LIKE to be able to credit my own brilliance in this matter, I have a feeling my main contribution is genetic.

    She’s getting a good education– because she likes learning things and wants to know how the world works.

    ON THE OTHER HAND— A truly awful teacher can totally quash even the most brilliant student.

    Comment by Deirdre Mundy — August 26, 2011 @ 3:17 pm

  2. The truth of Mr. Fitzhugh’s statements and Ms. Mundy’s observation is obvious. Teachers must follow the rule: “first do no harm,” then “try to help guide and motivate and instruct.”

    All of the talk on ed reform really matters little to the student who cares. Ed policy is about averages, and individuals are not averages. That’s why ed is always being reformed – in a twisted sense – it doesn’t matter and long as it’s provided.

    Comment by Dennis Ashendorf — August 26, 2011 @ 5:14 pm

  3. Teachers may not be the *prime* movers, but neither are students, entirely.

    I suspect that the students Fitzhugh has in mind all have access to a desk, good lighting, an encyclopedia and other resources, supportive parents and most importantly- peace and quiet. Once all those factors are in place, then you could make the argument that it’s up to the student.

    But for many, those basic things aren’t there. (They certainly weren’t for me.)

    If schools chose to systematically address those issues (such as by providing quiet, supervised study time after school – not a large investment compared to things such as smartboards), then maybe we could talk about how good students simply want it enough.

    Comment by Hainish — August 26, 2011 @ 6:15 pm

  4. Student responsibility is the reason for the A-F grading scale: An “A” supposedly acknowledges the extraordinary effort and sacrifice of students who achieve genuine academic mastery, while an “F” acknowledges the refusal of students to apply themselves to their studies.

    Nearly every school district in the country still maintains the A-F scale despite all this talk of teachers as the decisive factors in learning. Why? Because of the blistering public outcry that would no-doubt ensue if the schools ever abolished grades. (And if teachers are indeed the real achievers rather than students, then it only follows that grades for students must be abolished.)

    The reality, of course, is that said school districts are trying to have it both ways: maintain the grading scale and thus the appearance of rigor, and then place all sorts of tacit pressure on teachers to hand out passing grades (even A’s) like Halloween candy.

    What an irony that while most Americans at large still adhere to the truth—that student responsibility is the basis of all meaningful student achievement—more and more of our leading educational “experts” do not.

    Comment by James O'Keeffe — August 26, 2011 @ 7:51 pm

  5. A fine piece by Will.

    Hainish makes a good point that many students need a quiet place for study. But they also must be willing to quiet down once they enter that place. Having a quiet study time after school is a great idea–but there again, some kids would take it seriously and some would not.

    Comment by Diana Senechal — August 26, 2011 @ 10:11 pm

  6. Of course, tiger mothers and Mr. Chipping can entice, persuade, and influence students to give up a strike against studying—they do it all the time. But the EduPundits and the Ed Schools who neither know nor care whether students are doing any academic work (reading nonfiction books, writing research papers, etc.) are helping to misdirect public attention, and making it more difficult for responsible adults to convince students that their academic work matters for them as well as for the rest of us.

    Comment by Will Fitzhugh — August 27, 2011 @ 11:33 am

  7. Too many commentators here are not getting Mr. Fitzhugh’s point: student behavior is not an object of interest to the wonks, pundits or ed school people. It is receiving zero public, political, journalistic or research interest as, obviously, it must if this whole, sad exercise of reform is ever to be turned around into a fruitful endeavor. “Why Johnny Doesn’t Give a Damn,” that’s the book that needs to be written.

    Comment by bill eccleston — August 27, 2011 @ 1:42 pm

  8. But how are the wonks supposed to change student behavior? It’s a cultural issue, not an educational issue. It’s not a problem we can fix by throwing money at it–it’s not that poor children make poor students, but that kids from homes where education isn’t valued or parents aren’t present make poor students! We can’t educate people who don’t want to be educated. You can’t force someone to learn, and you can’t motivate someone whose goals don’t include “getting educated.”

    But admitting this would be admitting that we’re helpless in the face of “intentional non-learners,” unless the parents are on board.

    (I can make my kids work on skills they hate (like handwriting) because I can withhold screen time, ice cream, etc. until they do their ‘job.’ A teacher does not have that sort of coercive power, and many parents of “un-learners” don’t care enough to wield their own powers of coercion.)

    Comment by Deirdre Mundy — August 27, 2011 @ 2:30 pm

  9. Amen to Mr. Fitzhugh’s typically thorough and thoughtful perspective. “Two thumbs up” to Mr. O’Keeffe’s follow-on observation as well. I’ve been teaching at a private school since the 1970′s, and the overt pressure exerted by administrators on teachers to inflate their grades is a reality. When the school grading scale defines “C” as “satisfactory,” but an administrator is leaning on a teacher by saying “A ‘C’ is what you give a student who does absolutely nothing” [real quote there, folks!], one of the problems in our schools is patently obvious.

    Comment by Broeck Oder — August 27, 2011 @ 3:42 pm

  10. It’s not quite true that student behavior is getting no attention from ed reformers — weren’t they handing out iPods and $200 checks a year or two ago in NYC?

    But ed reform fads seem to live about as long as reading instruction fads…

    Comment by Rachel — August 27, 2011 @ 3:47 pm

  11. I thought the “teachers matter” argument was essentially that some teachers are able to generate effort from kids who walk in the door (and then, to varying degrees, convert that student effort into learning)…

    …While other teachers with the exact same kids are not.

    No?

    Comment by MG — August 27, 2011 @ 4:31 pm

  12. Will,

    Yes, students can indeed be considered “passive recipients of their teachers’ influence. “As a fan of Alfred North Whitehead since my time at Teachers College, his most compelling message concerned the primary role of the teacher. The teacher, according to Whitehead, is there to “romance” students, especially the reluctant learners into w a n t i n g to learn. If they fail in this role, they should consider alternative employment.

    As for liberal education being on the back burner, that’s true in many urban schools which NCLB was written to address. Liberal education is alive and well in our suburbs.

    The good news on math and English/language arts being the primary focus for students in our cities; these kids are FINALLY getting something as opposed to simply being passed from one grade to the next regardless of effort or production.

    Comment by Paul Hoss — August 27, 2011 @ 9:26 pm

  13. Mr. Hoss,

    It seems to me that what you’re really describing is the fine art of rhetoric–whether it’s a politician soliciting votes or a teacher enticing children to learn. If that’s what you mean, then I agree with you up to a point. The most effective teachers are those most adept at cajoling, coaxing, i.e. persuading students to engage the subject-matter at hand. These powers of persuasion may be a teacher’s most vital asset, second only to knowledge of academic content.

    But there’s a reason why rhetoric remains an art and not a science. Such powers of persuasion are largely human rather than “professional”; they depend on nuances of personality that can’t be taught in any school of education. And just as no politician, no matter how charming or slick, will ever achieve 100% of the vote (anywhere but banana republics, of course), the greatest teacher on the face of the planet, whoever she or he may be, is not going to reach 100% of their students.

    It’s not only unreasonable to expect every teacher to “romance” every last reluctant (let alone defiant or contemptuous) learner, but it’s also unjust to those highly motivated learners who still need plenty of close guidance and feedback. Despite a teacher’s best efforts, students will learn exactly as much or as little as they want. It’s about freewill, which is what I took to be Mr. Fitzhugh’s main point.

    Comment by James O'Keeffe — August 27, 2011 @ 10:51 pm

  14. James,

    Interesting points, all.

    To believe for a moment that a teacher is going to reach 100% of their students would be as foolish, perhaps even more so, as to believe all students will reach “proficiency” in math and reading by 2014; but it’s a common ethos nonetheless.

    It may indeed be only rhetoric to believe such a feat is possible, but as a life long public school teacher I was never able to give up on even one student in 35 years, regardless of their circumstances. Not sure I would have slept if I had. Furthermore, I wouldn’t want to have worked with one who did not possess these very convictions. Would you want one of your child’s teachers to have given up on them? I didn’t think so.

    Whitehead’s “romancing” of students stuck with me throughout my tenure. I only wish more had had the opportunity to be exposed to his beliefs for it truly is one of the most important traits of an effective teacher.

    Oh, and I agree completely with you about the more motivated learners needing the attention of the teacher as well. That cohort is not quite as disadvantaged as others because many have parents or relatives to supplement the teacher’s time, a luxury not available to many of our most at risk students.

    Comment by Paul Hoss — August 28, 2011 @ 9:27 am

  15. I have an anecdote and a question for everybody out there:

    On Friday, I had assigned my high-school juniors in my regular English III class (I also teach AP and Dual Credit) with researching the vocabulary in an article on global warming (this was not busy-work but preparation for a response essay students will write next week).

    As I walked the room checking for struggling or off-task students, I came to one young lady who was applying makeup, her assignment on her desk so-far untouched. I asked her if she needed help or needed me to re-explain the assignment. Her exact words:

    “I don’t want to do it. It’s too hard.”

    Then, probably because I was staring at her in silent bemusement, she amended this to “I’ll do it at home.”

    While it doesn’t happen often, this isn’t the first such incident or such student I’ve dealt with in my career. When I taught middle school, as I did for seven years, I would have taken her out in the hall for a chat, called her parents then and there, or both. With 11th-graders, I feel it more appropriate to let students live with their choices–particularly when that choice is an outright, declared refusal to work. So I went back to my desk and quietly made a note of the student’s behavior for later reference.

    Should I have intervened further? Did I abdicate my responsibility? Am I bad teacher?

    Thanks to anyone who has time to read this and respond.

    Comment by James O'Keeffe — August 28, 2011 @ 1:22 pm

  16. If good students aren’t being hampered by poor schools, then how do you explain the extraordinary gains by all those kids who enter KIPP schools well below grade level and wind up above grade level by graduation? Clearly, learning environment matters in achievement as well as student motivation.

    The fault isn’t 100% teachers, nor 100% students, nor 100% curriculum, nor 100% administrators and bureaucrats, nor 100% lousy parenting, nor 100% anti-intellectualism in our society, but a combination of all those factors.

    Comment by Crimson Wife — August 29, 2011 @ 12:42 pm

  17. Crimson Wife: I think you are correct that good (that is, motivated) students are often hampered by poor schools. However, my take on that is that they are hampered by their fellow classmates, not by their teachers.

    At KIPP, the disruptive, non-compliant students are discouraged from attending, and are encouraged to leave if they can’t comply with the behavior or homework expectations. MANY more students leave KIPP after 5th grade than enter; Hence the “graduating class” is usually just a fraction of those who start out.

    I agree that students will learn more if placed in classes with other students who do their homework, encourage (rather than ridicule) academic success, and don’t disrupt the learning environment for their classmates.

    Comment by Attorney DC — August 29, 2011 @ 1:34 pm

  18. @AttorneyDC I couldn’t agree more that the drag on motivated students is their classmates, not (in the main) teachers. I can’t claim special knowledge about whether KIPP does or does not “counsel out” those who refuse to put forth enough effort or who otherwise do not contribute to a strong pro-academic environment. But whenever a KIPP booster insists they do not, I always ask, “Well why not? They should.”

    @Crimson Wife. I’m a curriculum guy, but even I would say that the single most important variable in student achievement is school tone. Get it right and everything works. Get it wrong and nothing does. This is also why, per above, I have no issues with schools that have the ability to enforce high norms in terms of effort and behavior are duty bound to do so.

    Comment by Robert Pondiscio — August 29, 2011 @ 1:44 pm

  19. James,

    Success I had with reluctant learners was often attributable to humor. That is not to say the teacher has to be the second coming of Jerry Seinfeld, Gilbert Godfrey or Eddie Murphy but they’re kids. There always seemed to be some way of connecting with them through humor. Their defiance or poor attitude always seemed to disappear when you could get them to laugh, either at you or something goofy.

    Serious all the time turns some kids off. Some of their lives are just too brutal for incessant serious. Just a thought.

    Comment by Paul Hoss — August 29, 2011 @ 6:43 pm

  20. Paul Hoss wrote:

    “Would you want one of your child’s teachers to have given up on them? I didn’t think so.”

    It depends. Let me use myself as an example. I graduated from HS in 1979 in the top 5% of my class with a Regents diploma. I did very well in math/science, but one subject I couldn’t stand was English. All I remember from my English classes was a constant effort to turn us into creative writers and lovers of poetry. Sorry, but that just isn’t me and it wasn’t me back then. Nearly all my efforts at “write a poem about this chair in the next 45 minutes” ended up as blank pieces of paper. Should my English teachers have bent over backwards just to turn me into something I’m not, never was, never wanted to be, and still don’t want to be at age 50? I certainly learned enough to pass my Regents exams and vow never to take another English class. The fact is I’m a below-average creative writer. Someone has to be below average in a given discipline and most people are below average in something. The D’s on my report card weren’t a failure on the part any teacher’s efforts but a simple reflection of my strengths, weaknesses, and interests. So would I have wanted my English teachers to “give up on me”? Certainly. Focus on those who like this stuff.

    Years later I taught physics in high school. I had many students who hated physical science as much as I hated Hemingway. Yet I was apparently supposed to focus the weight of my efforts at making the least likely of physicists “succeed”, whatever that means, and leave those who liked physics to essentially fend for themselves (of course, they “succeeded” because they were likely to get an A)j

    I can understand Paul’s philosophy in the younger grades, but as kids grow up and start gravitating toward certain directions, that attitude becomes absurd. High school teachers are generally single-subject teachers. If every teacher is supposed to inspire every student it means that everyone is supposed to be interested in, and excel at, everything. Even if this was possible what good would come of it? Imagine if we could turn every kid into a major league pitcher, and an NHL-caliber goalie, and the next Michael Jordan, and… The fact is, if you’re not athletic no one will be crazy enough to suggest that you “need” the best efforts of the best coaches and sports clinics. We may simply wish for you to remain active, get some exercise, and enjoy playing your sports in recreational leagues.

    Comment by Educationally Incorrect — August 29, 2011 @ 8:40 pm

  21. Thank you, Sir Hoss, for indulging me. Luckily, I’m a little spoiled myself–I get to work with kids who can quote not only Seinfeld but Monty Python and The Big Lebowski as well. Humor has indeed been a great friend and ally in my classroom.

    I just thought the example was relevant to this discussion: Is there really any program, policy, or practice devisable by man which can prevent certain petulant teens from dismissing the hard work of learning? I would sooner expect the Soup Nazi to apologize to Elaine.

    Educationally Incorrect makes another valid point. I think there needs to be a weaning process in high school insofar as teachers catering to students. If we are graduating kids who still expect teachers to romance their precious, tender little hearts, then we are not graduating kids who are ready for college or the workplace. Their first day of college will be like the French-castle scene in MP and the Holy Grail.

    Comment by James O'Keeffe — August 29, 2011 @ 10:31 pm

  22. James,

    No soup for you!!! No, really. I have a special mulligatawny simmering on the back burner especially for you as we blog. There will be none for George Costanza, however.

    For you and Educationally Incorrect, we should perhaps incorporate a degree of Thorndike’s Law of Effect but only after (younger) children have had a reasonable exposure to as many disciplines as possible. Of course, this all can best be ensured by children having access to the core knowledge experience in the first 8-9 years of school.

    By the time many kids get to high school they have a better feel for their direction in life and are hence allowed to choose electives matching their interests/direction.

    Comment by Paul Hoss — August 30, 2011 @ 6:48 am

  23. Paul,

    In no way am I suggesting that I should have been able to opt out of English. The most important thing I learned is that this wasn’t for me. I’m also glad that names like Hemingway and Faulkner aren’t complete mysteries to me.

    Before I took physics in HS I knew nothing about it and the only advanced warning I received from some older students was that it was extremely boring. I loved it from the get-go and it’s a good thing that no one asked my opinion as to whether I wanted to take it. I have to say that if I was in HS today I would probably hate physics because of the de-emphasis on math and all the emphasis on mindless “hands-on” and cooperative learning. The continual effort to make everything interesting to everyone is backfiring in many respects.

    What the education world needs to get through its skull is that half the population is below average and that this is not something to be fixed; it’s just the way it is. Last year some school in NJ decided that they would pretend that no one would be below average in their district by eliminating the D grade. What we should have heard coming from NJ was the sound of hysterical laughter followed by the sound of desks being clean out. The fact that we didn’t hear that is what’s really disturbing.

    Comment by Educationally Incorrect — August 30, 2011 @ 8:43 am

  24. Eductionally Incorrect: I’m enjoying reading your comments — you make very good points. I agree that half the population is below average (on any given subject) and that it really shouldn’t be the teacher’s job to cajole students into loving a subject. Providing interesting lesson plans is one thing, but requiring a teacher to twist themselves into knots attempting to get ALL kids to love poetry, or physics, or chemistry is simply an unproductive effort.

    Comment by Attorney DC — August 30, 2011 @ 9:30 am

  25. You don’t have to get people to “love” poetry, but you can get them to understand the concept of “heightened language” (poetry) and why, say Shakespeare’s plays, the epics of Homer, and much of the Bible are written in poetry. Through studying poetry one can learn how word placement, antithesis, stress and sound and much can be used to convey and enhance meaning.

    Then there is lyric poetry (songs, including folk and popular) which many people enjoy without realizing it is poetry.

    I think a good teacher ought to be able to convey a love of language (words) of which poetry is one aspect.

    Comment by Harold — August 30, 2011 @ 1:32 pm

  26. I have always been a reader, did just-for-fun minors in history and English, and did lots of writing for HS-college English, college history and for my major. The English writing was either research papers or short, text-based in-class or out-of-class English essays. Typical of in-class papers was to identify a quote and discuss its significance. I have written a thesis and a dissertation. I also wrote frequent, long letters to my father and mother from the time I left home until their deaths. However, I HATE CREATIVE WRITING, whether, stories or poems, and I consider myself fortunate that none of my teachers forced me to do it, but allowed an expository alternative. I am also against journaling in school. First, all schoolwork should be corrected and second, if kids want to keep a journal it should be private and on their own time.

    Comment by momof4 — August 30, 2011 @ 2:23 pm

  27. So your saying that students are still responsible for their academic success even if they work hard but don’t succeed because the teaching is crappy?

    Comment by Anonymous — August 30, 2011 @ 4:30 pm

  28. I should have started by saying that “love of subject” or “lifelong learner” shouldn’t be the goal; the goal should be academic knowledge and skills. Schools are too interested in student emotions; we already have a couple of generations who don’t seem to know the difference between “I think” and I feel” – and some of them seem to be teachers.

    Comment by momof4 — August 30, 2011 @ 5:30 pm

  29. I love the sound of this, momof4: “I hate creative writing!”

    This reminds me of my older daughter, who in her younger age was a bit snotty with food, and she was told to eat because it is “papa bun” (“a tasty fare”), to which after a while she retorted “I don’t want a tasty fare!”

    Fun to think that the expression ‘creative writing’ has gained traction precisely in our English Language classes – the very place where students are supposed to learn what is a pleonasm.

    Comment by andrei radulescu-banu — August 30, 2011 @ 6:28 pm

  30. “I think a good teacher ought to be able to convey a love of language (words) of which poetry is one aspect.”

    A good sashimi chef conveys a love of eating raw fish — but only to those who have a capacity for loving raw fish. Imagine judging the competence of a sashimi chef by his/her ability to convey a love of sashimi to those who are disgusted by raw fish, unless, of course, it’s cooked — in which case it’s no longer sashimi.

    Imagine if we judged doctors PRIMARILY by their ability to talk meat lovers out of eating red meat and loving lentils instead. The reality is that something’s got to give. If we favor doctors with stellar PR skills over those with medical knowledge that’s exactly what we’ll end up with. We won’t magically get both.

    This is pretty much how education works.

    Comment by Educationally Incorrect — August 30, 2011 @ 8:33 pm

  31. With the difference, Educationally Incorrect, that the sashimi chef has one night to convey love for the food, whereas school has the entire adolescence. It is not important for an individual to become necessarily proficient at eating raw fish (not unless one gets marooned after a ship wreck). That would yield no higher functions which might be otherwise transferable.

    Comment by andrei radulescu-banu — August 31, 2011 @ 9:07 am

  32. Language is what makes us human and furthermore communications skills, like mathematics skills, are needed for daily living.

    If you love a subject, it increases interest, and if you are interested in a subject, you are more likely to remember things about it, and use it, and hence get better at it. Nevertheless, it is not necessary to love it.

    Personally, I confess, for the most part, I never did like the English literature classes I took very much. However, I did develop a love of poetry somehow.

    “Then Farewell, Horace, Whom I Hated So,– Not For Thy Faults, But Mine.” –Byron
    .

    Comment by Harold — September 1, 2011 @ 6:17 pm

  33. “The reality is that something’s got to give. If we favor doctors with stellar PR skills over those with medical knowledge that’s exactly what we’ll end up with. We won’t magically get both.

    This is pretty much how education works.”

    Yes! And this is why we’re told we need to stay away from topics that don’t interest the students, that we need to constantly entertain them with those awful Scholastic “biographies” about Christina Aguilera and companion books to Disney movies.

    Comment by alamo — September 3, 2011 @ 2:30 pm

  34. The discussion seems to have drifted from the original article’s point: student motivation. Yes, good teachers are important, but a good teacher can’t magically create students who want to learn. I have taught 8th and 9th grade at three different schools. At each school, at any one time, half—sometimes more—of the class would be failing simply because they refused to turn in work: homework, class work, work done right under my nose. They would do any and everything other than what was assigned in class and did not care that they were failing. I could spend pages describing all of the things I tried–some failed miserable, others worked—or all of the issues affecting the lives of these students, but that is not the point. Student motivation does matter. The problems I encountered can and have been addressed at schools like KIPP, though with some controversy. Turning all public schools into KIPP is pretty unlikely (mostly because of teacher burn out).

    All of the discussion about loving a subject or letting students choose subjects also misses the point. Not all students will like, love or even see the relevance of every class or assignment. The ones who choose to excel in everything can and will get A’s in everything. Other students can and do choose how much effort to put into a class. A good teacher should not be giving all A’s. Most students should earn B’s or C’s. A student who really doesn’t get it should earn a D or F. Sadly, we have lost sight of the fact that a C is average. Presently, students who care (or at least their parents) view C’s as unacceptable. Teachers should teach material well and do their best to make sure all students understand the essential concepts—a C level—as well as challenge students to move beyond that level and enrich their knowledge. Students must apply themselves to the basic learning and then be willing to show that they are able to take it to the next level. We need to remind ourselves and our children that self-efficacy, practice and effort are what create success in the long run.

    Every student deserves the opportunity to learn; no student deserves to keep others from learning.

    Comment by cmk — September 13, 2011 @ 10:22 pm

  35. CMK makes a good point about student motivation.

    The sad fact is that for some students it took all the motivation they had to get up and get to school in the first place. They see no relevance in attending high school. After all, high school graduation credit requirements are designed to prepare students for success as university freshman, and the fact is that not all students plan to attend a college or university.

    There is some question of the reasoning behind ‘forcing’ struggling students to attend what can arguably be called college prep classes and with drop-out rates being a concern in many districts, providing vocational/technical training as an option to a strictly academic program seems like a viable option.

    While I understand that all students do not fit into any one set pattern or mold, I am going to reference generalities, recognizing that there are extreme cases in every situation. Most students who plan to attend college are more likely to ‘jump through the hoops’ of high school expectations because they can see them as a means to an end. However, there are those students who cannot or will not engage in their academics because they hold no relevance. These students tend to disrupt classes and spend a lot of time getting to know the discipline practices inside and out.

    High schools could develop an alternative program which provides students with the necessary academic requirements, but also provides training and/or education that would provide the skills necessary to enter the workforce right out of high school or the impetus to continue with educational pursuits: vocational schools or in some cases community colleges.

    Consider the benefits: there would be less discipline issues for teachers and administrators, students with diplomas and vocational skills have a purpose…feel productive…are less likely to ‘get into trouble’, and districts could maintain those federal dollars they lose when a student drops out.

    While high-school vocational/technical tracks might not be a magic bullet that will solve such problems as high school drop-out rates and behavior/discipline issues, it might be worth a districts time to investigate the benefits and drawback of implementing such a program.

    Comment by D. A. Ward — September 22, 2011 @ 1:22 am

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